I would appreciate help choosing a software for the Finite Elements Method (FEM).

I wish to model items like ropes, bull whips and fishing rods. (I intend to transfer the model into bio-mechanics, later.) E.g. I wish to study how the force/torque/movement applied to the handle of a fishing rod spreads to the end of the fishing rod.

I am not primarily interested in different methods of constructing e.g. fishing rods, like "should they be round or hexagonal, solid or hollow". I am interested in how they work, how the force at the handle is transmitted to the bait during a cast, and similar questions.

Many recommend Code_Aster with Salome-Meca for "FEM problems in general". It seems very advanced, highly developed and "hot". (Some more advanced docs only in French, though.)

I got the suggestion to use MBDyn. It does not have a graphical interface. But it seems adapted to my task. (It considers the movement of multiple bodies and elasticity.)

There are also many other software packages.

I have never used FEM. I know it is often used to analyze structural tension in solid objects, the flow of gases and fluids and electromagnetic fields. But those applications are a little different from my applications. My application is more focused on the movement of connected elastic objects. (I wish to model the fishing rod as connected elastic objects.) From what I have seen so far, FEM is more about "static" tension, triangulation of "uniform" matter. But I am just guessing from examples here. I do not have experience of FEM.

I thought I would start with Code_Aster, but first I would appreciate to hear what members familiar with FEM think.

The program should run on a Windows home PC. (If "absolutely needed" I can also set up Linux dual boot, but I just removed it due to storage limitations.)

So far, this is only a private project so the cost is of concern. I could consider spending up to maybe $1000 if I knew that I got something which definitely did the job better. But to me it seems open source and software free of charge are highly developed in this area.

What software is best suited for my task?

Thanks a lot

EDIT 22/6: To summarize the question: How does a fishing rod move when the fisherman casts his bait? (The fishing rod is modeled as a series of segments, the rigidity/elasticity and weight differs in each segment. A description in two dimensions will suffice.)

  • $\begingroup$ What really matters is the goals of your analysis. What question about the fishing rod do you need to answer with a model? This will determine whether you need Dynamic vs. Static Analysis, Linear Elasticity vs. Plasticity, Eigenanalysis vs. Stress Analysis, etc. The goals of your analysis will determine the type of solver that you need. Only from this can you determine which software will meet your needs. Without extremely specific goals, it's impossible to give advice. $\endgroup$
    – Paul
    Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. I am not able to describe my goal in the terms you give. I describe my goal like this: You connect many short segments of a rod with plate springs. You then exert torque on the first segments. What forces will act and what movements will the connected segments show? Solving these kind of equations analytically is complicated for only two segments, already. How can it be simulated? (I do not need to know if a segment will break due to overload.) $\endgroup$
    – cvr
    Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ Just intuitively I would say it is Dynamic and not Static, it is Elastic, not Plastic. it is not Stress analysis. -- Put very bluntly: How does the fishing rod move when the fisherman casts the bait? $\endgroup$
    – cvr
    Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ What equations are you using to model the rod? E.g. Elastodynamic Equations? Dynamic Euler-Bernoulli Equations? Something else? $\endgroup$
    – Paul
    Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ Most GUI-based FEM packages for Windows are going to be commercial (e.g., ANSYS, COMSOL, Abaqus), and most open source scientific packages are going to be easier to build and install in a Unix-like environment (Linux, for instance). Sometimes, it's possible to build software with a Unix-like compatibility layer (mingw, cygwin) and some effort. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23, 2014 at 0:25

3 Answers 3


if you need a program with 3D capabilities I would suggest Elmer, that provides a graphical user interface and is easy to use. If 2D capabilities are enough, I would suggest Agros that has a really nice GUI (better than most of commercial software) and its use is intuitive.

According to your description you can model your problem as a set of beams, and this can be done easily in most of the programs.


You can model a whip as a solid object (solids or beams) in FEA. You'll need a package that does dynamic(transient) response with nonlinear large displacements. The latter is important because the direction of the force would probably change as the whip bends. For a list of packages showing which support these features, see http://feacompare.com


If this is an academic project and you are an university student then you could download student versions of commercial FEA packages like Hyperworks or ANSYS or ABAQUS for free. They have good tutorials to help you model your problem.

  • $\begingroup$ It will be more constructive if the downvoters comment as to what exactly is wrong with the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Pratronn
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 0:15
  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure why the down vote. Possibly because the OP says it is a private project. I didn't realize you could get a free ANSYS download though so I will give you a +1 as I think this answer could be useful to some people. =) $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. Yes, ANSYS recently released free student version though there are some limits on number of nodes that can used but still pretty useful. Cheers. $\endgroup$
    – Pratronn
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 15:48

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